How a Christian can know the will of God is both an easy and a difficult question to answer! The easy part is that God’s will is clearly stated on a number of occasions in scripture without ambiguity. The difficult part is when it comes to making specific choices in life in relation to big decisions we have to make, like where we should live, what career we should pursue or who we should marry
To try and give some guidance on this subject we will look at it under three headings: the prescribed will of God; His permissive will (Part 1); and His particular will for my life. The final heading and some principles in relation to knowing the will of God will be dealt with in Part 2.
To know God’s will, we should start by seeing what the scriptures say. Within His word God has given us clear commands or precepts, leaving us in no doubt about what He wants us to do. If you search the Bible for ‘the will of God’, you will find verses like these: ‘this is the will of God, even your sanctification’, 1 Thess. 4. 3; ‘in every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you’, 1 Thess. 5. 18. We also have commands such as ‘be ye holy’, 1 Pet. 1. 16; ‘be not conformed to this world’, Rom. 12. 2; ‘be kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another’, Eph. 4. 32. Then there are commands that the Lord gave to His disciples that apply to us today; for example, in John chapter 13 verse 34 the Lord commanded them to ‘love one another’. In the great commission they were told to make disciples and baptize them, Matt. 28. 19. From these verses we know that God’s will for believers is for them to be baptized, to live holy and sanctified lives, to be kind and loving to other believers and to have a forgiving spirit. These commands are non-negotiable, and it should be our aim to have the spirit of Mary in John chapter 2 verse 5, ‘whatsoever he saith unto you, do it’.
In addition to the clear commands, God has given principles in His word that can help us to decide what His will is. There are scriptures that clearly teach that we should: serve God with ‘reverence and godly fear’, Heb. 12. 28; honour God in our lives, 1 Sam. 2. 30; seek to please Him in what we do, 1 John 3. 22; be modest in our appearance, 1 Tim. 2. 9; ‘abstain from all appearance of evil’, 1 Thess. 5. 22; not forsake the gatherings of the Lord’s people, Heb. 10. 25; our assembly gatherings should be marked by decency and order, 1 Cor. 14. 40. These are just a few examples where God has given us principles to guide us in the decisions that we make. Although they are more general, and thus are more subjective, they can still help us know what God’s will would be in a particular situation. In light of these scriptures, we should challenge ourselves by asking some simple questions to help us decide what we should do:
Will it bring honour to God? Will it please Him? Is what I am wanting to wear modest? Will my decision prevent me from getting to the meeting? Does it have the appearance of something wrong?
We have also been given examples or patterns of behaviour in the scriptures which show us what believers did. These can help us to know how God wants us to respond if we are faced with similar circumstances. God has left these examples on record for us to seek to emulate, 1 Cor. 11. 1. For example, Paul in Acts chapter 20 verse 6 arranged his travel plans so as not to miss gathering with the Lord’s people on the first day of the week. This is a pattern that we would do well to imitate in our lives.
The second aspect of the will of God is in relation to circumstances that God permits in our lives. At times we are called to go through trials to test our faith, 1 Pet. 1. 7, or to develop Christian character, Rom. 5. 3. These are often situations we would not choose for ourselves, however, God in His wisdom allows them for our eternal good. It is not always easy to cope with trials but remember that it is always safe to trust Him.
We should seek to learn from the experiences we are called to pass through, and we should be willing to listen to, and take advice from, godly saints who God has entrusted with our care, Heb. 13. 17.
To be continued